The past two weeks have been rough at the Nolen household with the grand-girl very sick with a tummy virus and everyone else catching it. I’ve got a writing conference in two weeks and a garage sale in three weeks. Both will require a lot of preparation. Nothing like adding a little something to something else to keep it fresh. But I have to say that this is a refreshing Fall, what with the nice weather we’re having and the fact that we haven’t just moved, or are moving, or are planning to move soon. Nope, this will be the start of year two in the old haunted house on Welch street.
So I begin with me but this is really another post about the past. Digging through my mother’s paper’s I found an extraordinary cache of history. I include it for your enrichment. I can’t help but be impressed with the passion of patriotic feeling that is hard to find outside of military families these days.
How did my mother come to have a pen pal in a POW camp in France?
Turns out the German POW found my mother’s address in her cousin’s address book. The little booklet was removed from his dead body during battle. He sent a scrap with addresses that he’d copied out of the book before the book was taken from him.
It looks like the first time Mr. Haag wrote was the 6 of July 1947. He wrote a postcard in German. All I can understand is the address and the beginning “Geshles Frauleine!” I’ve probably spelled it wrong. It is beautiful script, but hard to decipher the letters.
I guess he figured out pretty quickly that she didn’t speak German.
I think the next one is Epinal 15, 1947 (I have no idea when Epinal is so I leave it at that.) I think this is a second letter. Here is what it says:
“My Dear Miss Holl-, Last week I got your postcard and thank you very much. I had already given up the hope in your getting my card. I am sorry to write you, that the little book, in which I found your address amongst some others, is me taken off by a controll visit. I should like send to you your cousins address book. I was only able, to write up some adresses, which were well to card. In 1945 I was for a short time prisoner by the Americans, and well to remember me at this time, because we were well treated. In the next time, I hope to be repatriated and to be allowed to return to civil life. Perhaps, I am able to see once your country, America! I should you visite certainly. In the hope, soon to hear something off you, Dear Miss Holl-” I great you heartily and remain your Werner Haag.”
I think the next time he write is December 7, 1947. Here is what he says:
Dear Miss Holl- Your Christmas present for me, the Holy Bible, today at the same time so your kindness for which I thank you dearly. I am sorry that also in this year I cannot celebrate Christmas at house with my parents. For here in our prisoners camp there will be no distress in Germany is very great. Now I will tell you about me as you want it. I was born July 23rd 1927 in the Black Forest! I have brown hair, and eyes, as you can see in the little picture which was made in captivity. After having leaved school in 1942, I was offered a coppersmith job, but I could not finish my apprenticeship for in 1944 I was made a soldier having 16 years. To I wrote you I speak English but very badly. Nevertheless I desire to perfect my knowledge of the English language. I was in American captivity for only a short time. It is very difficult for us to learn English for we have no learning books. For order to simplify our correspondence one of my comrades translates our letters. Dear Mary Louise, I’m very pleased that you like your work and that you are happy to help unemployed people. As I am very interested in your country. I would like to read the newspaper which published the article about your work. As I lost my two brothers, who were killed in war. I only have an older sister. We are good Christians and my very good Catholic homeland has suffered by war, especially farms which were completely devastated. I envy your country which is truly blessed as you said. I always hope to have the possibility to visit you in your country but that will be difficult. The German prisoners in France are offered to stay in France as civil workers for one year. They will have a holiday in the next year. I am separated from my relative already three years. My parents want me to engage here for one year. You know certainly that the liberation of the German prisoners of war has been fixed to the end of the next year. As during my captivity I have been accepted hard work off all conditions and often without sufficient food. It will not be difficult for me to finish my year working off my labor in the coal mine. For that is what they have for me. And now my dear Miss Mary Louise, I must finish once more. I thank you heartily for your Christmas gift. I want you and your relatives to have a merry Christmas. Your German Friend, Werner.
The last note is a postcard dated Merlebach, 6/2/48:
Dear Miss Mary Louise! I thank you very much for the Christmas card. Have you received my air-mail letter? I’m am set free now, and drive this month to my parent’s. Hoping that you soon to answer, and kind regards, Yours very faithfully, Werner.
I tried to locate Werner Haag POW number 1084450 born July 23, 1927 (He was two years younger than my mother) in the Black Forest and I came up with one Werner Haag born that year in that region. This Werner Haag invented the polymer later called polyester. He died in 2003. I shouldn’t be surprised a bit if it were the same person.
Stranger things have happened.